Laboratory facilities that handle infectious agents are categorized by the Biological Safety Level (BSL) that corresponds to the risk level of the pathogens being handled. BSL-3 Laboratories are designated for “indigenous or exotic agents that may cause serious or potentially lethal disease through the inhalation route of exposure” according to the Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories or BMBL.
The BSL-3 laboratory is pervasive worldwide for applications ranging from microbiological research; scientific teaching; biomedical, diagnostic & clinical, biosecurity, vaccine research, and various production facilities. BSL-3 labs are also used for handling pathogens with a higher-risk or unknown risk, especially when the facility is outfitted with a Class III Biosafety Cabinet.
Construction of the BSL-3 Laboratory
Until recently, the BSL-3 laboratory has exclusively been constructed as a traditional fixed site facility. The most complex components are the HVAC/air filtration systems and controls. For example, it is imperative that all ductwork and plenums are properly engineered and integrated with the critical components including the Building Automation System (BAS).
Many regions do not have the specialized mechanical trades required to build these complex systems. Considering that BSL-3 labs require advanced HVAC systems and controls, alternative type structures had previously been unfeasible. However, modern technological advances have allowed for the development of BSL-3 mobile and modular laboratories.
Modular BSL-3 Labs: Specialized modular structures can be engineered and manufactured with the proper primary and secondary containment systems for a BSL-3 facility. This technology can be a flexible solution for added lab capacity and for certain regions where standard construction is not feasible. ISO shipping containers may also be utilized as the core structure of the BSL-3 laboratory for easy deployment and installation of the lab in remote regions.
Mobile BSL-3 Labs: Advancements in HVAC and secondary containment systems have allowed for BSL-3 laboratories to be built within truck and trailer platforms. These sophisticated biocontainment units offer the maximum flexibility of deployment and are now used for public health and biosecurity applications.
For more information please see our sections on modular BSL-3 laboratories and mobile labs.